Accessing Government and Legal Services and Information

The use of the Internet to deliver federal, state, and local government services and as a means for providing access to the justice system has become more and more prevalent in recent years. People use the library’s computers to access government programs and services, get help from government agencies, look for government forms, learn about laws and regulations or permits and licenses, and look for assistance with legal questions or problems. In many cases, they are able to follow through in these areas by completing activities online such as signing up for government programs, obtaining a permit or a license, or completing legal forms or finding legal help.
As in other areas discussed in this report, libraries have become a de facto service center for many people who use these increasingly important public offerings. Many government agencies are relying on online delivery to improve their efficiency and reach more citizens; for many, this is the only place that access to these services is available. In addition, in times of disaster, the library may be the only functioning access point for critical government services for people from all walks of life.
Among all users of library computers and Internet connections, 34 percent of users report that they found government programs or services, obtained important government forms, discovered information about laws or regulations affecting their activities, found and submitted permits or license applications, or obtained help with a legal issue. (p. 116-7)

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